MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Patience is getting to be awfully painful for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Team President David Kahn has watched his young team seemingly find a new way to lose every night, and fans are wondering when all the hard work and improvement that Kahn sees is going to start manifesting in the standings.
The Timberwolves are 9-29, which is tied for the second-fewest victories in the league, but Kahn said on Monday that no big changes are imminent as the team works through what has been a difficult learning process.
“As painful as this is, there was no way to do this with a quick fix and put the team into a position to dramatically rise overnight,” Kahn said after practice. “It is really painful to work your way through this process. I’m actually encouraged that maybe it won’t be as painful for as long as I once worried it would be.”
The minute Kahn took the job in 2009, he started to preach patience. He made it clear that his rebuilding plan would take years, not months, and he has proven to be prescient on that point. The Timberwolves went 15-67 in his first year on the job and have just one more victory now than they did at this time last year.
But Kahn sees a team that is “light years ahead” of his first team, one that tied a franchise record for futility with a roster assembled for financial, not competitive, reasons.
He points to career seasons from Kevin Love (averaging 21.0 points and an NBA-leading 15.6 rebounds per game), Michael Beasley (21.6 points) and Darko Milicic (2.3 blocks) as tangible reasons to believe the talent here is better than it has been in years.
It’s also the reason Kahn doesn’t foresee making any major trades in the near future. Point guards Jonny Flynn and Sebastian Telfair and swingman Corey Brewer have seen their names come up in trade rumors across the league, but Kahn said “it’s very important to take a long view toward all of this and not overreact.”
“Nothing, absolutely nothing, is imminent with our team right now,” he said. “I’m focused on helping the players and coaches turn the corner this month, or whenever that may be. We’re not looking to do anything on a trade basis at this point.”
Coach Kurt Rambis has also taken some heat in the last week or so, especially in the wake of two lackluster efforts at home against a depleted Charlotte team and a Portland Trail Blazers team missing Brandon Roy.
Once again, Kahn showed no inclination of making a rash decision on that front. He gave Rambis a great deal of credit for Love, Beasley and Milicic all playing better than they ever have in their careers. He also said that he knows Rambis can improve on his game strategy, particularly on set plays late in close games, a scenario that has given the Wolves fits this season.
“What we need to do is make certain that we support him in every way,” Kahn said. “I expect him to continue to get better in many areas. But at the end of the day, nothing has shaken me in my resolve that he has the kind of qualities necessary to take us to another level.”
The Wolves have lost three games to the Spurs by a combined 11 points and have also taken the Celtics, Jazz and Lakers to the wire in close losses this season. But they have also had bad home losses to the Nuggets without Carmelo Anthony and Nene, the Warriors without Steph Curry and the Bobcats without Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace.
“I know everyone would like for it to happen overnight, but it doesn’t happen that way,” Rambis said.
Kahn takes some of the blame for assembling a roster so young, without the kind of veteran, vocal leader to stabilize the situation when things aren’t going well or to provide a sense of calm in the tense moments of a close game.
“All roads do lead to me,” he said. “The roster is what the roster is. I’m accountable for it. The coach is the coach, I’m accountable for it. The staff, you name it. I believe that we put the team into a tough spot. That’s why Kurt knows he has time to grow this.”
And while fans clamor for immediate moves to get the victories started, Kahn is adhering to his long-term vision for the franchise.
“I really don’t want to lose sight of what we’re here to do. That is, we want to win a championship down the road,” he said. “We want to have this particular group of people be the ones, many of them, involved in that. To do it right, sometimes you have to sacrifice a quick fix for a more longer term plan.”
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